I don’t do much writing but I like trying my hand, a lot like my photography. So when my mate challenged me to write about something trivial I jumped at the chance. He chose the subject: Tripods. How much do you need to know about tripods? Turns out quite a lot.
Let’s set the scene – I have two little tripods – an original Gorilla by Joby (snigger! Sounds like a jobby!) and something smaller with hard plastic legs. I also have the obligatory bean bag – can be used to scare away nosey cows during delicate self timer moments – and a full size tripod which was the cheapest own-brand that Jessops had back in 1987. The smaller tripods have their uses and the bean bag is lovely but the large plastic thing is a pile of kak on many levels. Let me explain.
The extended legs are spindly things that wobble and quake if a bee flies past. The feet are like the eraser end of a pencil and can’t find traction on anything. If there’s a breeze in a neighbouring country then the thing jumps in the air like a gymnast and lands like a three legged, drunk giraffe. I imagine. I have to use advanced mathematics to work out the direction the camera can be pointing on the tripod head to keep the structure balanced and if I want to add a lens bigger than 50mm then I need to add scaffolding.
Making sure the shot is level has so far not been an issue since I have to accept whatever I get and crop it later. If the tripod stays up for more than ten seconds then I start to cry like I’ve won an oscar. Securing the legs with tent pegs and attaching lead weights to the main shaft allows me to attempt to add a larger lens. However I have to be quick to take the photo as after a couple of seconds the plastic screw holding the top plate decides it’s all been too much and slowly gives way with the camera-lens combo drooping downwards like a sad clown until the only steady image is one of the tripod feet. (plus tent pegs)
So what have I learned? Buy good stuff. The smaller tripods are ok for me right now as I can usually find walls and big rocks to balance on but it’s not only a bit frustrating but can also be a bit precarious for large lenses so I’ll need to reassess what I want to do. Currently I’m looking to invest in things like 1. built in spirit level(s) 2. sturdy feet and legs (for the tripod, not me) 3. a good action on the plate that allows movement without compromising the location or stability of the legs 4. locks on all moveable areas 5. something that isnt too heavy.
Apart from cost, the last point was the only thing on my mind when I bought Simon. Now I know better.
….yes, I named my tripod… doesn’t everybody?